S. Korea's main gate to historic royal palace regains its grandeur

16:01, August 15, 2010      

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The newly restored Gwanghwamun, the main gate to a royal palace in central Seoul, was unveiled Sunday on South Korean National Liberation Day, marking the end of Japan' s colonial rule in 1945.

Speaking at the unveiling ceremony, President Lee Myung-bak said: "We can now see Gwanghwamun standing tall here once again, restored to its past glory... and it will open the door toward the new history."

Gwanghwamun, known as the face of Seoul, has witnessed the Korean Peninsula's turbulent modern history, not to mention bitter memories.

It was first built in 1395 as the main gate to Gyeongbokgung Palace, the main and most important royal palace during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). It was burned down in 1592 when Japan invaded the Korean Peninsula, and restored in 1865 under the reign of King Gojong.

The royal landmark was removed by Japan's colonial government in 1926 to a different location to make way for the Japanese Governor General building.

The wooden gate suffered another tragedy as it was destroyed during the 1950-1953 Korean War. In 1968, President Park Chung-hee rebuilt the gate using concrete at a place slightly away from its original position.

President Park himself wrote Gwanghwamun in Korean on a new panel, instead of the initial inscriptions in Chinese. Therefore, the reconstruction of Gwanghwamun by President Park only brought criticism over its lack of originality.

The Cultural Heritage Administration under President Kim Young- sam demolished the former Japanese Governor General office building in 1996 as part of South Korea's efforts to remove the remnants from its colonial past and the 20-year restoration project of Gyeongbokgung Palace since 1990.

The restoration of Gwanghwamun was launched in 2006 to its original location and shape as well as wooden structure as it was reconstructed in 1865 with meticulous historical accuracy.

The heritage administration said the restored Gwanghwamun was opened to the public on Aug. 15 "so that the people can reflect more deeply on the meanings of the forced annexation of South Korea by Japan."

With this year marking the 100th anniversary of Japan's annexation of the Korean Peninsula, Seoul's Yonhap News Agency said in a commentary that the country should take the reconstruction of the Gwanghwamun as an opportunity to "cross a history of humiliation and march toward a glorious future".

Source: Xinhua


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